Victory: Mother wins children back after long, hard struggle
The serving plate in Misty Mager's kitchen is stacked high with pancakes, awaiting her three children to come in from playing outside. The kids are laughing out in the sun, Misty is smiling, and life looks good. This is what Misty always wanted, and what she finally won after a long, rough battle.
"I started doing drugs when I was 13," she confides. "That's too bad, but that's when they get started with it these days." By the time she was 17, she had married her first husband and had given birth to her first daughter. Four years later, still doing drugs with her husband, she had already given birth to a second child and was pregnant with the third. That was when the bottom fell out.
"I was on probation for DUI, my ex was on parole. APP (Adult Probation and Parole) turned us in to DCFS (Division of Child and Family Services)," she says. Family Services investigated, urged her to kick the drugs, and warned what would happen if she and her husband didn't.
"I couldn't do that. I couldn't do what they wanted," she says. She and her husband were co-dependent on drugs, serving as a bad example for each other.
So DCFS got a court order, removed the two children from her home and put them in foster care. "I still remember that day today," she says. "It was traumatizing." It was traumatic when her husband left her shortly after that, too.
After six months of counseling and therapy at Four Corners Mental Health, and weekly visits from court investigators, she got her two kids back. She had meanwhile given birth to her third. Then she lost all three of them. "I had a relapse," she explains, and DCFS moved in again. This time, the children went to live with her sister.
The pain of that separation forced her to declare her own personal war on drugs. The difference this time, she explains, was that she had found an arsenal of weapons she could use in that war. First and foremost was her family. "They were my support group. They stood by me. Anything I needed, they were there to help me," she declares.
Second, she found honesty. "I tried to hide. I tried to hide," she recalls. "Don't deny that you have a problem and need help," she advises, "and know that you can get help."
Third, she did find help. She took courses in parenting at Four Corners, had individual therapy, and built good relationships with all her case workers. She was working two jobs, and commuting every day to Miller Creek to visit her children. "I was able to pay for it all, I paid for the therapy and the courses."
She remembers very well some terse advice she got from Karlene Bianco, who was then at DCFS. "I told her it was tough to quit because my friends were doing drugs. She told me, 'Girl, you don't need friends. You need family.'"
When she finally got her kids back, she resolved to keep them forever. "It has been a long, rough road, but I've made it. I don't want to go back to that, ever."
She has since landed a promotion to manager at Fresh Market, and is involved now in helping people who have problems like she had. "It's called Parent Empowerment," she explains. "I don't work for DCFS, but I work with them to help families who need it. I share my story with them."